About the FICO Credit Score

Since our society is so automated, it should come as no surprise that your creditworthiness comes down to one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, the three major credit agencies, each have their own proprietary formula for building your credit score. The original FICO model was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While the formulas vary, each agency uses the following to calculate a score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • Payment History - Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts do you have? How much do you owe?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of lending you money?

These factors are weighted differently depending on the formula being used. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Most borrowers getting a mortgage these days have a score above 620.

Not just for qualifying

Credit scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.

Improving your score

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to immediately improve your credit score. Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. (Of course you can and should appeal incorrect items on your credit report.)

Know your FICO score

In order to improve your credit score, you must get the reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score along with reports from all three agencies. Also available are helpful information and tools that can help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report every year from all three agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

Armed with this information, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the most favorable mortgage.

Curious about credit scores? Give us a call at (203) 729-6681.

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